Human Rights

Ramadan atmosphere is alive and well in Manbij


Once a centre of ISIS activity, residents in the Syrian city of Manbij are observing Ramadan free from the group's oppression

Residents from the Syrian city of Manbij continue to observe Ramadan, as the holy month slowly draws to a close. Streets in the city remain busy with local citizens during the night, and traditional juices such as tamarind, cherry and jallab (a mixture of rose water, grape molasses and dates) are on show in the markets.

“I sell liquorice, tamarind, jallab, berry, and cherry juices, in addition to all kinds of drinks,” said one vendor. “Liquorice and tamarind decorate the tables in Ramadan as well as sweets; this is what decorates the table”.

The atmosphere during this Ramadan is noticeably different from previous years. Two years ago, conflict was ongoing in Manbij as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) attempted to dislodge the so-called Islamic State (IS) from the city.

While the group was defeated by the end of August 2016 after three months of heavy fighting, the legacy of death and barbarity left behind by ISIS remained in the minds’ of locals long after the SDF’s victory. Many residents still remember ISIS’ rule in Manbij and note the difference of life under the group compared to today.

“The atmosphere is good and the security is stable,” said the vendor. “During ISIS’ time, we had nothing, there was no work and there was no Ramadan atmosphere”.

“Monsters used to live among us, monsters in every sense of the word,” he continued. “They are not human beings or men. Ramadan this year is much better than the previous Ramadan during ISIS’ time”.

Amidst the vast improvement to life in Manbij, however, citizens are wary of being imbued in regional issues going forward, especially between the US-backed SDF and the Turkish backed rebels, which at their closet point lie just 13km away from the city.